“Natural, Organic, Holistic” – What does It all mean!?

Natural, organic and holistic are popular buzzwords in the dog food world these days and this week we’ve set out to define these terms so it’s a bit easier for you to purchase the right dog food for your pup.

NATURAL – natural dog foods should contain ingredients that are made from recognizable, whole foods that have been minimally processed. These foods might contain fillers like soy or gluten, or grains, but they should all be labeled as such. When you see the phrase “all-natural” you should be able to count on the ingredients being in their whole, natural form without any processing at all. It’s important to note that the term “natural” is not regulated by the USDA and any food brand can use this term to market their product.

ORGANIC – the term organic is regulated by the USDA and identifies products that have been grown, harvested, and processed in a manner that follows their strict guidelines. The rules followed by producers of organic human food generally apply to pet food as well. A pet food company can use the label “organic” on their products if at least 70% of the products in the package have been grown and processed according to the related guidelines. Chemicals like pesticides, fertilizers, and antibiotics are not allowed in organic products, according to human food regulations.

HOLISTIC – holistic is a very broad term that generally means that the food contains additional supplements or vitamins that lead to a more well-rounded meal. This term is not regulated by any governing body and can have very diverse applications depending on the food, medical needs, lifestyle, etc. For example, some “holistic” dog food products specifically include supplements for senior dogs, or for better coat health. This term can be used by anyone to market any product.

In conclusion, “organic” is the only label that actually carries any weight according to federal guidelines. That being said, we suggest reading dog food labels carefully – just as you would with your own food – and talking to your vet to find a food that fulfills the need of your pup. If you want to read more about genera dog nutrition and healthy, we recommend checking out the AKC’s “expert advice” section here.

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